Wonderstance – Basilike Pappa

Winter in radio frequencies

his mad orchestra

the pale state of heaven

Sluggish days / cemeteries  

for pencils – broken  

Are you upset? Walk often

Until communication returns

sleep wake attack escape

social shadowplay

Feed yourself:

the kitchen knife

gleam of the underworld

Windows are reflection / also inspection

But if I fly through them – broken

(as long as they’re not open)

Anathema to insect screens:

instead of sticky tape,

with nails to the frames are attached

See?

Afterlife does nothing on a whim –

follows protocols

Resurrect somebody or make a replica – do it fast

When I repair myself

in the green and gallant spring

when birds do sing

the pine-wood grows alive with wings

face rentals suffer much

my scarves

my boots

my coats

my gloves

will go through

a mild case

of wonderstance

 


Borrowed Lines

In the green and gallant spring: In the Green and Gallant Spring by Robert Louis Stevenson

When birds do sing: It was a lover and his lass by William Shakespeare

The pine-wood grows alive with wings: Spring in the South by Henry Van Dyke


Basilike Pappa is a bookmonger and a wordcubine. She believes that in poetry an image must montage the mind with false cognates, and that god is sun on a copper coffee pot. Her prose has appeared in Life & Art Magazine, Intrinsick and Timeless Tales, and her poetry in Rat’s Ass Review, Surreal Poetics, Bones – Journal for Contemporary Haiku and in Nicholas Gagnier’s anthology All the Lonely People. Most of the time she can be found reading near a window in Greece. You can see more of her work on her blog Silent Hour.

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: No More Than You Can Salt – Basilike Pappa

salt b & w

Show me someone who doesn’t want to make their parents proud and I’ll show you a liar. Or, worse, I’ll show you a weakling who shies from hardship. Or, even worse, a heartless, ungrateful bastard. For it is a truth secretly whispered that, when parents bring a baby into their home for the first time, and the sleepless nights start, and the crying turns to howling for hours on end, one question keeps gnawing at their minds: Why did we do this to ourselves?

Strange as it may sound, no one puts someone else before themselves without expecting something in return. And what better way to make it up to one’s parents  than to say one day: ‘Parents, your sacrifices were not for naught. I’ll make you proud.’

Such is the case with me. I can’t deny the fact that from an early age I had been burning with desire to make my parents proud. The seasons came and went, the years passed, and the conviction that only by accomplishing this task would I conquer my own happiness grew stronger. Then came the day when I stood before my parents as a young adult.

‘We haven’t raised you to be a heartless, ungrateful bastard, have we?’ father said.

‘God knows you haven’t,’ I reassured him. ‘No fancy talks about freedom of choice, living your life the way you want and such. Besides, mother is stunningly lifeless. There can be no doubt of my legitimacy.’

‘Or a weakling,’ he added.

‘Absolutely not,’ I said. ‘You must have noticed that, for a girl, I don’t cry as often as expected. And I’ve never –not once– fainted in my life or demonstrated excessive sentimentality of any sort.’

‘Or a liar.’

‘Every dictionary should have a picture of my face next to the entry Truth,’ I said. ‘Remember, parents, that every time you asked me how this or that went wrong, I always told you who was to be blamed. It’s not my fault that it wasn’t my fault but someone else’s.’

‘Then it’s payback time,’ father said.

‘Sacrificing yourself for your loved ones is the truest kind of love,’ mother said. ‘And cleanliness is next to godliness.’

I knew that making my parents proud wouldn’t be easy but, then again, how hard could it be? All I’d have to do was fulfill in their place whatever dreams they thought they had abandoned while playing the noble sport of bringing me up. At the same time, I’d have to not lead a life too different from theirs. Failing to repeat your parents’ mistakes is downright disrespectful.

It would be like adding salt to a dish without making it salty.

‘Parents, your sacrifices were not for naught. I’ll make you proud,’ I said.

And with that promise I went out into the world.

*

‘There is no such thing as boring mathematics,’ father had once said wistfully while watching TV. I was surprised to hear it. Until then I thought it was the devil who had invented mathematics, in the hope that people would get so bored by it they would have to sin in order to feel alive again. All the same father didn’t think so. Therefore I started thinking about general abstract nonsense; I became the monumental mathematician every newspaper in the world wrote about. I raised the art of numbers to such levels it couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. And though I often felt stiff and close to tears, not once a blasphemous word escaped my lips.

Lying on my bed one night, looking at the stars from my window and adding up my monthly expenses to lull me to sleep, I realized it was time I reached higher goals. After exposing myself to grinding training, I was ready to defy my weakness –motion sickness– and become the acclaimed astronaut whose handshake with an alien the whole cosmos watched on their TV screens. And though I was often sick during my conquering space, I was proud to be shooting all over the stars.

The order of the universe passed through my soul, turning me into an aesthete. I saw beauty and wisdom in the composition of human laws; I found escapism in loopholes. I became the laureate lawyer whose court epics were repeated word for word by every respected magazine on the globe. And every time I had to sit down and produce some work, I never uttered an obscenity while trying to achieve suspension of disbelief for the public.

It was during my first semester in medical school that I met a tall, dark stranger.

‘You look like a woman of principle,’ he said.

‘I owe that to my father.’

‘You also look like a spotless housewife.’

‘I owe that to my mother.’ It goes without saying that I never started a day without scrubbing every surface in my home with maniacal virtuosity and polishing my cutlery, counting it at the same time to make sure they hadn’t left me for someone else. Then I would look over all I had made and see that it was very good, but next time I would do it better.

‘Will you marry me?’ he said.

‘Are you also rich or just handsome?’

‘I am the owner of the world,’ he said, not without the appropriate mixture of pride and humbleness.

‘In that case the answer is yes. My parents couldn’t have asked for a richer and better looking son-in-law,’ I said.

The wedding ceremony took place in a fairy castle located on its own island, in the middle of an enchanted forest, and left our celebrity guests with a gaping inferiority complex. Exactly nine months later I became a mother. The baby cried and howled for hours on end and I kept thinking: Why did I do this to myself?

It was time to go back to my parents and collect some recognition.

*

‘Your hair is uncombed,’ mother said, trying to rearrange it with her fingers. I pushed her hand away.

‘Parents,’ I said, ‘I stand before you today as an accomplished promise keeper. You must have noticed how much I have achieved and in how many fields of expertise – hell, the whole world has noticed. I now want to see some tears of joy and to hear that I have made you proud.’

Silence held the house, broken only by the ticking of the antique clock over the fireplace and the buzzing of a bee around a vase of fake flowers.

‘Did you have to drop out of medical school?’ father said.

*

I performed all the movements in a perfect succession of balance and contrast. My parents’ heads were units of a larger piece of work, but could also stand by themselves as an independent composition on the mantelpiece. There was one thing missing – salt. I threw handfuls of it over their bodies to create dynamic whiplash motifs.

These were my most sensational headlines ever. But once again I wasn’t very pleased with the photos. I had posed with the fire iron and the chef’s knife, standing tall and grinning from ear to ear, but somehow I managed to look mad instead of happy. Even though things would never be the same, my unphotogenic face would follow me in my new way of life. Oh, well…

Sometimes I replay it all in my mind, to see if there is anything that I could have done better, a chance for improvement now lost forever. But no. The prickling of a thousand needles on my skin, the sweat that never breaks but boils under it, the vise gripping my head, the nausea – they aren’t here anymore. I always see father’s eyes in wide open praise before his body collapsed to the floor as if it were empty. I always hear mother crying out her last words to me: ‘Kill no more than you can salt!’ How proud would she be that I took her lessons to heart.

I replay it all in my mind, and tears of happiness roll down my face. I taste them with the tip of my tongue and find them saltless. I’m always on my best behavior after that.


Basilike Pappa lives in Greece, where she doesn’t work as a translator, a copy-editor or a historian. When she doesn’t write, she reads, walks her dog and cooks without salt. She fights anxiety by singing in a loud, bad voice. Her prose has appeared in ‘Intrinsick’ and ‘Timeless Tales’, and her poetry in ‘Rat’s Ass Review,’ ‘Surreal Poetics’ and ‘Bones Journal for Contemporary Haiku.’ You can read more of her work on her blog, Silent Hour.

 

WRONG TWIN’S LULLABY

by Basilike Pappa

It said sleep / the voice said / slide into / me / like a fish / in water the voice said / dreamless / I’ll catch you / just sleep it said / you’re tired and / it’s time to / sleep.

Like this / it said / the voice said / close your eyes / slide / let go / see? it said / like this / come to me / easy / you’re tired / just sleep.

That time / it said / remember? / that time in the sea / the water closed over / so close to the shore / but that current / that sneaky tricky current / it said let go / the voice said / like fish / you’re tired / sleep / easy like this / don’t blink.

And you thought  / why not / easy / the water quiet / like a sheet / it said now sleep / and the world will wash you by / stay still / finish it / go down / deep / a stone in water / so easy like this / like sleep / heavy dreamless / sink.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / it said like this / no more of this / just sink / slide / sleep / for a moment it was easy / to let it all go by / bead after bead after bead / meaningless string / remember? it said / you don’t but I / remember how wide-eyed / you escaped me.

Close your eyes it said / that time that street / remember? the voice said / it was me / slip of your feet / in the rage of its machines / don’t blink / stand still / and the world will crush you by / like a wave / like a current / in a sneaky tricky sea / don’t cheat / now sleep.

And I’ll catch you / said the voice / why not believe in me / it said tired / don’t think / slide / dreamless deep / ready? sink! / for a moment you were ready / but you cheated / backwards step / you caught yourself / quick / no sleep / through my arms you slipped.

It said sleep / the voice said silk / let go / and the night will pass you by / why not / easy / and I swear it’s not me / now and forever deep / just my twin / not me not me / not the voice in the sea.

Why not believe in me / in my arms / I’m my twin / like this: see? / easy / close your eyes / come to me / don’t think / sleep / never pushed you in the street / try me / the voice said silk.

To the voice I said like fish / through your arms I’ll slip like this / voice current / hair seaweed / I am wide-eyed / you’re no sleep / no end of cheat / to the voice I said don’t speak.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / I said I like this / yes! more of this! / be quiet now / like a sheet / I don’t know what it means / but I know how it feels / sun on skin / daisy fields / sitting idle by a stream.

Quick / I blink / backwards step / I catch myself / you can sing your lullaby / all you want but never me / never in your dreamless water / I slide / I slip / easy: see? like this / there are parties I can’t miss / if I’m late don’t wait / eat.

Always sweet / a sheet of silk / but your singing goes six feet / under daisy fields I think / so don’t

speak / don’t sing / quit / here’s my finger / ready? Sit!



Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.

Photography by Jimmi Campkin (jimmi campkin.com)

Dyserotica-Basilike Pappa

He wants me to play dead in a clearing on Hymettos, under the open sky. I lie down on a flat rock surrounded by anemones and chamomile, and he spreads my hair in a fan shape.You are so pale,’ he says, as if he sees me for the first time. He arranges my limbs in different positions, and I can assure you his touch is clearly academic. He walks around the rock to look at me from different angles, talking all the time about aesthetics. His vowels are precise, his sigmas soft and his nus ring of the best education money can buy.

He drags a finger over the childhood scar on my knee, asks how I got it. I could invent a heroic story; but the rock is smooth, the sun gracious, the breeze carries the scent of thyme, so I just tell him the truth: I don’t remember. He’ll think I’m lying anyway.

His finger now follows my veins, starting from my wrist and traveling upwards until he reaches the web of angry blue that spreads on the inside of my elbow. Blood test, clumsy nurse. I don’t go into details. This is all about the skin, not what’s happening underneath. There is a stinging gleam in his eyes when he asks if it hurts. His thumb presses slightly on the bruise; I give him an exaggerated flinch and he withdraws. He suspects that if he really tried to make it hurt, I’d be making ribbons for my hair out of his face.

He lies on top of me, fully clothed, flat like a plain. ‘Pale,’ he says, ‘cool-skinned and with a heartbeat so faint it’s almost dead.’ Mouth against my ear, ‘Vrykólakas‘ he whispers. Even though his breath is warm, his sigma snakes through clenched teeth and bites. A tiny muscle twitches on my upper lip.

The next moment I laugh so hard and wide the mountain echoes; birds stop their chirping and take flight. ‘Impale me then,’ I say, shaking with laughter. ‘Why don’t you?’

He rolls away from me, thinks we should be going. I don’t do him the favor though before I show him by my own hand what an orgasm out of sarcasm is like. When I’m done, I put my clothes on with deliberate slowness – a reverse strip tease. Then, without another glance at his faint, lifeless face, I take the path down to where we left the car. He follows like a good boy.

It’s a quiet winding drive down to the city. He keeps his eyes on the road; I look out the window. As we reach the outskirts of Kessariani, the sky starts to pulse. Gold flows into the blue, making it transparent. Tides of gold over the white of buildings and sidewalks, pink glinting off side mirrors, glaring off glass doors. We stop at traffic lights. From the car next to us the first notes of Debussy’s Rêverie unfold, and we look at each other. We smile luminous. Smooth and easy. Together. And I think I feel. I think I know.

He wants to take me home; I say I’d rather walk.

We promise to call each other soon, but we won’t.

As a gift.


 

Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.

Montresor/Down Vaults- Basilike Pappa

Montresor - Pinterest.jpg

Since I was born

I’ve been a point definitely settled

(Roses are eaten fragrant)

 

Was it the same with you, Montresor?

Immediate risk of disappearance?

(down vaults where the dead are)

 

Repressed grimaces, forced smiles,

baptised in delectatio morosa.

 (violins playing obsession).

 

I bet you wrote poetry once,

dreamt of being a highwayman.

(Each laughing mouth a wound)

 

Into that hidden maze –the lifelines on your palm–

I kept myself a secret

(down vaults where the dead are)

 

movement – a measure of how long

until I turn myself into

(walls between a man and the Carnival.)

 

 

a weaver of grand jests,

the echo of rich laughter.

(Down vaults where the dead are)

 

Us: the smirk of a god.

We grew to be nightshade,

(loose teeth in the mouth of the earth)

 

but roses? Never.

We were eaten fragrant.

(we’ll stay awake and play.)

 

So be it, Montresor:

Let’s take them by the hand

(Come jingle all the way)

 

through corridors –our mind canals–

and whisper in their ear

(down vaults where the dead are)

 

tales of stone and mortar

below the river’s bed

(a little song called murder).


Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.

Meet Sudden Denouement Collective Member Basilike Pappa

IMG_Basilike Pappa

The editors of Sudden Denouement Literary Collective know that our strength is our writers. We hope that you enjoy getting to know them through our new Writer Interview Series.

What name do you write under?

Under my own, which is actually Vassiliki. Its transliteration into English destroys it, so now it’s Basilike. Doesn’t sound exactly right, but looks better. Pronounced Ba-SEE-lee-kee, by the way.

In what part of the world do you live?  Tell us about it.

For the past five years I’ve been living in Trikala, in central Greece. Having moved here from Athens, I sometimes want to stab the quiet flow of life in the back; other times I feel there is nothing like sitting under the shadow of plane trees next to the river Letheus.

Most people here move by bicycle. I must be the only person in town who doesn’t know how to ride one.

If you were here and wanted to see Greece’s history in five buildings, I’d take you to the Asclepion and the Roman baths, the Byzantine fortress and the mosque of Osman Shah. For some bad, unimaginative late 20th century architecture, I could show you any building in the center.

Bad news: this is not a seaside town and the summers here are blazing.

Good news: the mountains are near if you like the forest. I do.

Please tell us about yourself.  

Some words and some people’s voices have flavors. This happens mostly in Greek. The word skopós, for example, tastes like wafer when it means ‘purpose,’ but has no taste at all when it means ‘guard.’

Katey Sagal’s voice is peanut butter. She makes me want to grab a jar and eat it to the end.

I love saving old furniture from the streets and giving them a second chance. My bedside table is such an abandoned piece. I’ve painted it black and orange – its former bedroom wouldn’t recognize it.

The historical time I find most intriguing is the Middle Ages. Even though I know that if I lived then, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Twice I tried to read it, twice I felt as if they sentenced me to twenty years of boredom.

I’d love to live forever in a Michel Cheval painting.

If you have a blog or website, please provide the name and the link.

My blog is Silent Hour

When did you begin your blog/website, and what motivated you start it?

I started my blog in 2017, after publishing some poems and stories on online magazines. I was happy that the editors liked my work, but I had no way of knowing how many people read it and what they thought of it. The blog gave me the chance to see if anyone cares about what I write.

What inspires/motivates you to keep blogging on your site?

My inspiration comes from a book I read, a song I heard, a painting I saw; from a single line that comes to mind and waits there for its perfect match to turn up; and from personal experiences.

The writer friends I’ve made through my blog are also an inspiration. Their work is both a reading pleasure and a writing lesson.

When did you join the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective?

May 2018.

Why/how did you join Sudden Denouement?

Sudden Denouement had captured my attention from the beginning of my blogging life. It featured some amazing talents. I got to know some of them better and write with them. When I was officially asked to join, I felt very honored.

What does Divergent Literature mean to you?

Divergent is the literature that cooks with idiosyncratic salt and unorthodox spice, to produce dishes of anomalous virtue. Not a big fan of conventional vegetables, it only serves them as amuse-bouches accompanied with bottles of quicksilver.

SD Founder Jasper Kerkau frequently talks about Sudden Denouement writers using the ‘secret language’. What is it?

You know, when you are traveling by car with friends, and there is no need for music to be on, no one feels they should speak, and you can all enjoy the ride within a warm silence? That sounds like the secret language, I think.

What are your literary influences?

I wish I had the twisted imagination of Edgar Allan Poe, the dark humor of Fay Weldon, the surrealism of Achille Campanile, the cleverness of Daniel Handler, the skill of Zoe Heller, the wit of Oscar Wilde, the sensuality of M. Karagatsis.

Has any of your work been published in print?  (books, literary magazines, etc.) How did that happen?

I haven’t published anything myself. My poems Melinda’s Long Scarf Syndrome, Ulula and Marriage a la Mode are in the printed winter 2017 issue of Rat’s Ass Review.

Do you have writing goals?  What are they?

To go on writing. And  to complete a collection of fairytale and myth re-tellings.

Which pieces of your own writing are your favorites?  Please share a few links.

How Demons Get their Wings

Melinda’s Long Scarf Syndrome

Helix

What else would you like to share about your writing, Sudden Denouement, or yourself?

 

I’m never going to author words that sound like music in a bag

or grammar stones wrapped in newsletters.

I’ll cover me in paper leaves, lull me gently, ink my wires

and either I’ll become a microcosm of re-imagined senses

or, I swear, I’ll turn into a perfectly tuned clock.

 

Strike a Match-Basilike Pappa

the-world4.jpg

Some are atheist to thorns / star-crossed / easy pure hope / hurl quotes at you / colorful futures / white-bearded universe / prophets without a clue / no fishnet can hold the sea

Gods / distant spies / needle makers / cracked open jaws / highway wolves / gaping / smoke up curses / under a ripe moon / the world is potbellied

Impressive projects / dead lines / scrape the sky red / thundering ornaments / refrigerator romance / our darling forests turned into floors / not our feet over flowers

Waves of chlorine / bleached urban legends / army civilization / vengeful magazines / isolated mouth / words lost in time difference / return from the dead like a bad smell

Suits drive bright machines / exquisite oysters / indulged / emptied / lean legs / pants glittering / for want of soul or sex / this life tastes like sleeping

To wake is to watch / so scare off all rhyming / be fast / abrasive / tight fist / and amnesiac/ most of our loves are strangers now

Be heart-wrought doubt / no reassurance / be that diamond you’d devour / take extract from a wild summer / and strike a match


Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.

Daughter of a Dog- Basilike Pappa

Daughter of a Dog - Pinterest.jpg

You call me cinnamon, red apple, myrrh.

 

I only call you by your name.

 

And then you grasp tighter. You bite harder. You work faster than neurotransmitters, adrenal glands, caudate nucleus. You go deeper than all the waters in the world.

 

You call me sunlighter, voltage, song.

 

I call upon you, prefrontal cortex almighty: deliver me from chemical deception; for my veins are the pathways he travels, and my heart opens its chambers to receive him; and even though I claim to be a departure, I keep coming back as an electric negative night after night after night.

 

Abrupt tempo change. Hardcore drumming. Mouth feeding, drinking, spitting, touching. Full-volume assault.

 

Horizon cracks a scarlet stare and we in hymenean delirium, sinking a blade into time. Forever bound to this dark epoch dressed as youth, we are candles burning every grain of the past, every claim the future may have on us. Wreaths of breath around our minds, the secret fever blossoms silence on our lips. As I lie in your arms, universe becomes a pseudonym for home.

 

You call me love.

 

But love is a head-hunter – harder than catching a bird, or building a ladder to the moon.

 

So I only call you by your name.

 

And then you call me a daughter of a dog.


Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.

Grope-Introducing Basilike Pappa

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Doubled over

curled up

drained down to my secret nerves

I grope for

whatever

Just need to close this window

the wind must never see me

cuddle dust bunnies

Under the bed

I’m an old diary

the wind must never read me

                                                            (even rats are ashamed to be in your woodshed)

Doubled over

curled up

melted down to asymmetries

I grope for

whoever

If I were a fairy

would anyone steal my wings

Hold me steady

force-human

commonsense me

                       

                                                                        (what would the neighbors say)

The fortunate, the meek!

How fast they dream

If only they could tread – what’s the word

                                                                        (softly: like ghosts wearing slippers)

Softly is the word

No doors banging

no phones ringing

no laughter creeping in this cellar

where half a century is turning to sour grapes

(melancholy is a bad performance)

Kindly shut up

You know I love roses and wet grass

and even consider the lilies of the field as sisters

and that sometimes I hope deeper

for enchanted chariots

the truest sandalwood

a lake that lays shining in the afternoon

Then life comes back for a bite

And I

doubled over

curled up

drained and used and fucked up

grope

forever


Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.